A Steak Sandwich In The Suburban Jungle
By Christopher J. Bradley
9/10/01 11:18:29 PM

Tonight after a visit to the doctor
And a trip to the post office to mail items auctioned
At a profit of less than zero
On the commerce rails of e-bay
I ventured with my aunt and her grand schemes
To the mall in Cheektowaga
Under the assumption that we were going to pick up glasses.

The optical shop at JC Penney's resides beneath a large parking awning
At the side of the mall
And allowed easy access for my aunt who walks with a cane.
I parked the car and finished a cigarette before following her inside.
The store smelled like cloth and salon gel as I entered the foyer

I went quickly to the restroom
When leaving a father and young son debated over which stall to use.
I remember having the same conversation with my father
And having the same conversation again with my young brother
In public.
This choice is something men secretly learn to despise when older I believe.
It is unfortunate that in the twenty first century we still are not a cleaner people.
With a towel in my hands I left them to their concerns.

In the optical shop I cleaned my face of blackheads in the mirror
While listening to my aunt complain about the glasses she had purchased.
I knew her secret.
I thought she believed she could get a better deal elsewhere.
I was quiet as I was expected to be
But inside I wanted to scream
What is this madness?
To order custom lenses and frames and then expect to return them?
People aged twenty-eight are never permitted that sort of luxury.

In any case the optical shop was left promptly
And I drove her past Buca Di Beppo's
A place where I'd had a festive dinner with friends
She noticed a sign that said Health Department Inspected
And I laughed
As if other restaurants weren't.

We kept driving
And in mid travel agreed on Pizzeria UNO
A place conveniently traveled to by Millersport and a short cut
That turned out to be not so short
Where we discussed the menu at length
And I found a steak sandwich
That suited me just fine.

I used A1
Which I told her I'd gotten into the habit of using
At Bob Evans
With the Steak and Eggs Special.
I used the sauce liberally and enjoyed every bite
Especially the cooked mushrooms onions and peppers.
I wanted to tell her how much the sandwich reminded me of Chicago
But it would have seemed redundant
As she already knew it was a Chicago chain.

I thought back to eating Breaded Steak Sandwiches
With Bear and the other Sig Ep Brothers
And going on a burrito run while listening to Jane's Addiction
With Parry Farrell screaming "Coming Down The Mountain."
In the back seat of a packed Honda.
I don't believe there is ever a time I felt more of a part of a group
Outside of the days when I co-ordinated the BBS'ers in high school.
I felt equal and free and nervous
The blackness of the Jazz city at night
Took me in and I was safe there with the other explorers of our generation.

But to describe this in a moment
How would it have been possible
And to someone so set
I would have needed an hour.
Maybe introducing her to books was enough for a night
After dinner I took her to Barnes and Noble for coffee
And we shared some words about design
And heroic accidents
And drank caramel coffee

With any luck we can do this again.
And without as many rifts.

Maybe by the time the next time comes
She'll have already dealt with the glasses.

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